I was asked yesterday to consider or create an Australian Cricket XI from those players who didn’t quite make it for Australia. I have looked at the records of the 171 players to have played 5 test matches or less for Australia and have come with an XI based on the players whose records at the first class level would have suggested that they would have done more.
Here is my XI:
Bannerman opened the batting in Australia’s first test match and scored 165 in the second innings of that first test. He went on to only play in 3 tests for his country despite a quality first class record, for the time as follows:
Phillips came into the team in the place of the then vice captain of the team, Geoff Marsh. That factor alone meant that he was never likely to success, given that his captain, A Border, refused to join the Australian team at the venue of the test match until he had pleaded the dropped Marsh’s case. Phillips’ test match in Perth proved to be his only one. His first class record stacks up against other openers of the time:
Love was a classical right hand number 3 batsman for Queensland who came into the test line up off the back of number of bumper seasons from the Bulls and after injuries to Steve Waugh and Damien Martyn. He stayed in the team for 5 test matches and despite a maiden hundred in his last test series was dropped after Martyn’s injury heeled. An excellent player of all bowling types he retired with the following first class record:
Show me a follower of cricket in this current who says that there has been an unluckier player in this country than Stuart Law and I will show you someone who knows nothing about cricket. Handed a debut in Perth when Steve Waugh was injured, Law scored 56 not out and was at the other end when R Ponting was out on 96 and Australia declared. He would not play another test. I concede that law did have a significant one day career however I doubt there is another player with such a quality first class record who has only played one test match for his country in the world. That record is:
Named the captain of his state at a very young age by one of the most astute judges of talent in the game, the late David Hookes, White had long been tapped for greatness in the Australian set up. A four test stint in the team in the harshest of conditions (India) has been the reward for a consistent first class career that has seen him lead his state to multiple Sheffield Shield titles. Still playing the game his first class career currently stands at:
McDonald came into the Australian test team at a time when Shane Watson was injured and Australia was playing the best team in the world, at the time, South Africa. Batting at 6 / 7 and bowling as required McDonald let no one down however found himself out of the team after only 4 tests when Watson returned. Another player still playing the game (albeit without a first class game since representing Australia A against South Africa in 2012) his first class record presently stands at:
Although he was a wicketkeeper-batsman, Robinson’s three Test appearances came on the 1977 tour of England as a specialist batsman. Unfortunately Robinson spent his whole career in the shadow of one man: Rod Marsh. Before his debut, he had finished top of the Sheffield Shield batting averages, and on the 1977 Ashes tour he scored more runs and took more catches than the number 1 but still could not get a look in. He finished his first class career as captain of Victoria and with a record that any wicketkeeper batsman of current times would be proud of:
What happens when you are a leg spinner and your career comes at the same time of Shane Warne AND Stuart MacGill? You end up playing only 2 tests including one in India like the international career of Peter McIntyre. Unwieldy in the field, out of depth with the willow but with a wrong un that spat from the pitch McIntyre would have been the prototype for a leg spinner who batted at 11 and would have (and probably should have) played more but for Warne. His first class average if not great bat playing at the Adelaide Oval 5 games out of every 10 will do that to your numbers:
Some of my earliest memories of watching cricket are from watching bowl at the Gabba in the opening tests of the summer in 1986 and 1988. Those tests plus one more constitute the sum total of Matthews test career. Why? Because Matthews was crippled by nerves and just could not land the ball. Those performances are all the more astonishing when one considers that in first class cricket, particularly at his home ground of the WACA, Matthews was often close to unplayable. Left arm fast swing bowlers do not come around often and Matthews was up there with the best: when he could land them.
Standing at 6ft 6in and broad through the chest, Jo Angel, it is simple to say, scared the life of first class batsmen when they came to Perth to play Western Australia. The West Indies, who he faced in his first test match at that ground in 1992 were less worried and belted him. Angel was next in the baggy green in Pakistan where he toiled manfully for limited return. After playing the then toughest opponent in World cricket and going on the toughest tour in world cricket, Angel was never to play for Australia again. He played for Western Australian until 2004 and possesses a fantastic record at first class level:
I mentioned in the twitter exchanges that lead to this post that I was sure there would be a player in the team whose career was affected by World Series Cricket and that player is Mick Malone. Malone played in only one test match before joining WSC and in that test match he performed well including snaring a 5 for. In WSC though he was a peripheral player behind the likes of the Lillee and Walker and when WSC was over he never really got a look in despite continuing to perform well in first class cricket:
So there you have it: my “Best of less than 5 tests” Australian XI. It is: Bannerman, Phillips, Love, Law, White, McDonald, Robinson, McIntyre, Matthews, Angel and Malone. No doubt many will disagree with me but this is an XI that I think represents the best of those players who have not quiet reached their potential in the baggy green for reasons that range from the mental through the physical and ending with just not being selectors’ favourites.